Bobcats are the big school in their new district
Last updated 8/2/2022 at 3:44pm
The Orangefield Bobcats are preparing for a new football season in a new district and in a new classification. Based on enrollment numbers Orangefield dropped from Class 4A to Class 3A for the next two years.
This is the second time in the last five years the Bobcats will play in the lower classification. Orangefield is hopeful of success as the big school in the district, but that is not guaranteed.
Last season the Bobcats went 7-4 and tied for second place in their Class 4A district standings. The point spread did not favor Orangefield in the tiebreaker, and the Bobcats went into the playoffs as the fourth seed and were beaten in the first round by Bellville.
It was good year for Orangefield. "It was a successful season as far as reaching our goal of making the playoffs. That was the eighth time in ten years that we've been able to do that here as a staff and as a program. It was not as successful as we did not win a district championship and didn't get past the first round," Smalley recapped.
Orangefield lost eighteen seniors to graduation who will be missed. Smalley and the returning Bobcat players will work to achieve the goals of a district championship and advancing past the first round of the playoffs this year.
The list of lettermen back at Orangefield starts with multipurpose back Cameron Dischler who is in his senior year. Dischler led the Bobcats in rushing with over fourteen hundred yards last year and scored 19 touchdowns. Smalley praised, "He's kind of a do it all kid. He's had a tremendous summer, he's put on weight, he's about 195 pounds now, runs a 4.6 or 4.5 forty, he's going to be a legit threat for us anytime he touches the football."
Getting the ball to Dischler will be returning Bobcat quarterback Brayden Parker. Last season Parker did not do a whole lot of running with Dischler and fullback Hunter Ashworth carrying the load for the most part. "Brayden's going to be asked to do a little more with his feet this year, and he throws the ball really well," Smalley commented.
Another running back returning is Gavin Perry-Koci who will be the tailback for Orangefield. Senior Case Singleton will get a look at fullback.
The two bookends on the outside at the ends are Morgan Sampson and Koen Maddow. Smalley described, "Those guys are back, big kids, both 6-2, 6-3, 200 something pound guys on the edge."
Kicking has been an attribute for the Bobcats the last decade or more. Sophomore Ty Butler made several big kicks for Orangefield as a freshman including a late field goal to beat the Silsbee Tigers. Smalley pointed out, "He's a year more mature. He's no longer a freshman, he's bigger, stronger, faster. We've got a lot offensively coming back."
The Bobcat defense returns outside linebacker senior Beau Elkins who played a lot of downs last year. Jackson Humplik played safety but is moving to cornerback this season.
Mason Houghton is a junior and Leyton Loft is a senior that got some looks at outside linebacker and will see more time this year. Both inside linebackers graduated. Juniors Kyle Michael and Lane Gibson will step into those two spots. "They were actually on varsity last year as sophomores, so they saw a little bit of time, but now they're going to be asked to take on some lead roles," Coach Smalley stated.
Two other juniors that will see playing time for the Orangefield defense are Caleb Fregia and Kane Smith who will play some in the Bobcat secondary. Smalley analyzed, "We've got some guys back, and the ones we're using as replacements have actually seen some time. Now they're just going to be asked to take that bigger role and be starters and have more of an impact for us."
Some of the starters on offense will see time on defense. Dischler will fit in most likely in the secondary. Sampson and Maddox will find duty in the defensive front line.
There are underclassmen at Orangefield as Smalley mentioned who may have been on the varsity last year that will take on more significant roles this season. Kane Smith has worked hard and improved resulting in addition to his playing in the secondary on defense, Smith will also be the backup quarterback behind Brayden Parker.
Caleb Fregia spent most of last year on the junior varsity, but has had a good off-season and will see some time on defense for the Bobcats this year. Senior Reese Johnson is moving up from the junior varsity and will play some split end this season.
Smalley will spend the four weeks prior to the opening kickoff looking at offensive linemen. All five offensive linemen for the Bobcats graduated last spring. Newcomers Brayden McGee, Ethan Blackburn, Gavin Pollack, Ethan Cart, Rusten Traxler, and Diego Garcia will all be working to capture one of the five starting positions in the offensive line for Orangefield.
The two major glaring holes that Smalley and the other coaches will need to fill are the offensive line as just mentioned and the defensive line. There are plenty of candidates that will be battling to fill the big shoes of the seniors who graduated last year at Orangefield. Smalley admitted finding replacements for those quality players that are gone will be a big issue.
There is some experience at the defensive ends with Morgan Sampson and Koen Maddox who saw limited action on defense. Finding a noseguard to anchor the defensive line is a top priority.
The coach has scheduled two good scrimmages prior to the start of the regular season. The Bobcats will scrimmage the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears who were co-district champions last year in their Class 4A, Division I, district on Friday, August 12. The second scrimmage is against the Bobcats' former district opponent the Silsbee Tigers on Thursday, August 18. Both scrimmages will be at Orangefield's F. L. McClain Stadium.
The expectations for Orangefield are always high according to Coach Smalley. The lowering in the classification means the Bobcats will be the big kids on the block, but the other kids in this Class 3A district are very good.
An advantage for Orangefield compared to the last two season when the Bobcats were the smallest school in their district is the numbers game. "Instead of playing teams with 30 to 40 more kids than we've got. We'll be playing on a little more level playing field," Smalley explained.
That does not mean the skill level of the Bobcats' opponents like East Chambers, Anahuac, Kirbyville, Buna, and the other teams in their district will be any less. "There are no guarantees. You still have to work hard, and you can't take anything for granted. You can't become complacent. You've got to go in there and compete every day to get better, and we feel like if we do that we'll have a chance to compete for a district championship hopefully, so that's our expectation," Smalley concluded.